For me, the highlight of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, apart from the man wearing the jet pack in the opening ceremony (see a video here), was probably Carl Lewis emulating his hero Jesse Owens. Carl Lewis attempted, and succeeded, in winning the 100m, 200m, Long Jump and 4x100m relay, just as Jessie Owens had done in the Nazi Olympics of 1936.
Lewis’ first Gold medal was in the 100m, on the 4th of August. Lewis won in a time of 9.99s, with Sam Graddy of the USA coming 2nd in 10.19s. The long jump was on the 6th of August. Lewis easily won this with a leap of 8.54m, 30cm ahead of Gary Honey of Australia who took the Silver medal.
The 200m final was on the 8th of August. Lewis won the Gold in a time of 19.80, setting an Olympic record. The USA got a clean sweep of the medals, with 2nd place going to Kirk Baptiste, in 19.96, and 3rd place to Thomas Jefferson in 20.26s. To cap a truly remarkable week for Lewis, on the 11th of August he and his USA team-mates won the 4x100m relay in a World record time of 37.83s.
This is a video summarising Carl Lewis’ remarkable achievements at the 1984 Olympics.
Coe v Ovett Round 2
The other highlight of the 1984 Olympics for me was the resumption of the Sebastian Coe v Steve Ovett rivalry in the middle distance events. However, by this time the pair had been joined by Steve Cram. Cram had burst onto the scene in 1982, during a year when Coe and Ovett were largely absent from races due to injuries. In that year, Cram won the 1500m at the European Championships in Athens, and he went on to win Gold in the 1500m at the 1983 World Athletics Championships in Helsinki.
Going into the 1984 Olympics, Sebastian Coe held the 800m World record with a time of 1m41.73s, a record which would not be beaten until 1997. Steve Ovett held the World record in the 1500m with a time of 3m30.77s. So, just as in 1980, Coe was favourite to win the 800m and Ovett was favourite to win the 1500m.
But, as in 1980, Coe was not to win his favourite event. After a 1982 which was ravaged by injury, in 1983 Coe was struck down with a rare glandular illness. Ovett was also not on top form. He struggled to even qualify for the 800m final, collapsing over the line in the semi-finals in 4th place. He was suffering from breathing difficulties, possibly due to the Los Angeles pollution. Ovett was advised not to run in the 800m final by the team doctors.
The 800m final was on the 6th of August, and was won by Joaquim Cruz of Brazil in a time of 1m43.00s, with Sebastian Coe coming second in 1m43.64s. Steve Ovett trailed in in 8th and last place, clearly suffering.
Here is a video of the 800m race at the Los Angeles Olympics. It includes some footage of Ovett collapsing over the line in the 800m semi-final.
The 1500m final was held on the 11th of August, 5 days after the 800m final. Ovett, Coe and Cram all qualified for the final. Ovett again barely qualified for the final, coming joint 3rd in the semi-final. In the final, with just under one lap to go, Ovett dropped out, unable to continue. Coe, Cram and Spanish runner Abascal were clear of the rest of the field. Coe and Cram passed Abascal with 200m to go, but Coe managed to hold off Cram in the home straight to win, and become the first athlete ever to retain the 1500m Olympic title. The race was won in a time of 3m32.53s, with Steve Cram coming 2nd in a time of 3m33.40s.
Here is an extended video of the 1500m race at the Los Angeles Olympics.
Was this the best 1500m race at an Olympics?